Every day, more than 2,000 property improvement districts are at work making downtowns and business districts cleaner, safer, attractive, and more profitable. Whether your goal is to provide ongoing services like marketing, security, and maintenance, or to fund large infrastructure projects like parking garages and convention centers, a property improvement district can make that goal a reality. There are many types of property improvement districts, below are just a few that are available.
Civitas is a full-service firm specializing property and business improvement districts. Whether you have one and need help, would like to create one, or are just curious – feel free to contact us to learn more today.
Not sure which kind of district is right for you? Identify the services and improvements you need in the table below, then read on to learn about the special districts that can meet your needs.
|Cleaning (litter and graffiti removal, sidewalk cleaning)||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Landscaping – commercial areas||✔||✔||✔||✔||✔|
|Landscaping – residential areas||✔||✔||✔|
In California alone, more than 100 property and business improvement districts have been formed. These districts are found in downtowns, industrial areas, commercial corridors, and shopping destinations. From San Diego to San Francisco, from Sacramento to Redding, and everywhere in between, property and business improvement districts are changing business for the better.
Authorized in nearly every state, property districts place an assessment on property owners within a distinct downtown or commercial area. The assessment is collected by the local government – but unlike property taxes, the assessment money cannot be used by the local government for general purposes; instead, it must be used for specific services and improvements desired by the property owners. The funds are directed to a nonprofit corporation managed by property owners, who use the funds to implement services. Typical services include clean and safe programs (security, maintenance, and landscaping) marketing, and business attraction. They can also install physical improvements, such as bus benches, garbage cans, signage, and trees. Some even undertake large-scale capital improvements, such as undergrounding power lines or building recreational facilities.
Typically, it takes about a year to create a property and business improvement district. The district is created for a specific term, with approval from property owners. After that term, it must be renewed (again with approval from property owners) to continue providing services and improvements.
Community Benefit District
In some cities, property and business improvement districts go by the name community benefit district. Typically, a community benefit district is created by local, rather than state, legislation. Like property and business improvement districts, community benefit districts place an assessment on property owners that is used to fund ongoing services and improvements, and must be periodically renewed with property owner approval. For more detail, read the property and business improvement district section above.
Typically, it takes about a year to create a community benefit district. The district is created for a specific term, with approval from property owners. After that term, it must be renewed (again with approval from property owners) to continue providing services and improvements.
Community Facilities District
The community facilities district is unique to California. Also known as “Mello-Roos” districts, these special tax districts are used to fund large-scale capital improvements. Frequently used by residential real estate developers, community facilities districts have proliferated throughout every corner of the state.
Although community facilities districts impose a special tax rather than an assessment, their funds still must be used for a designated purpose. The most common uses of community facilities district money are construction of schools, police and fire services, and construction of cultural facilities like libraries and museums. They are also often used to provide landscaping and lighting improvements to commercial areas and residential neighborhoods. The funds are managed by the local government rather than a nonprofit.
Unlike most other special districts, community facilities districts are often created in residential neighborhoods rather than commercial districts. They must be approved by the electors, or property owners within the district boundaries. A community facilities district is a long-term investment; they are usually created for 30 years.
Landscape & Lighting District / Maintenance Assessment District
Some property improvement districts are formed with a limited purpose. Landscape and lighting districts are one such type of district. Landscape and lighting districts (also known as Maintenance Assessment Districts in San Diego) place an assessment on property owners in a commercial or residential area. The assessment is collected by the local government – but unlike property taxes, the assessment money cannot be used by the local government for general purposes; instead, it must be used for specific services and improvements desired by the property owners.
Typical services include installation and regular maintenance of landscaping features such as trees and flower baskets, and installation of decorative lighting. These districts are often found in residential neighborhoods, providing upgraded street lights and neighborhood entry landscaping. Funds are managed by the local government or a nonprofit corporation.
Multi-Family Improvement District
The multi-family improvement district is another specialized property district. Based closely on property and business improvement districts, multi-family improvement districts focus on providing services to apartments, condominiums, mobile home parks, and similar high-density residential facilities. The district places an assessment on these properties – and any intermingled commercial properties – to fund security, maintenance, tenant attraction, marketing and improvements.
Multi-family improvement districts have been most successfully used in disadvantaged neighborhoods, to increase safety and cleanliness for the benefit of all residents and businesses. The funds are managed by a private nonprofit corporation and cannot be diverted for other purposes.
Multi-family improvement districts are formed initially for five years, and can be renewed for up to ten years. The formation process takes about a year.
Parking Assessment District
If you’ve ever been downtown anywhere, you know parking is a hot issue. Many assessment districts are able to fund solutions to parking problems, whether they be downtown or in a commercial area. Whether you want to build a new garage, acquire a parking lot, upgrade parking meters, change the direction of on-street parking, or simply advocate for better parking, there is a special district that can help.